Road tripping with a theme

Why plan your overlanding trip around a specific theme? Well, it inspires you to dream and consider destinations afresh. If you want a road trip with a difference, it’s time to get creative. By Magriet Kruger

The holidays are almost upon us and that means time for long road trips. If you’ve never planned an overlanding trip around a specific theme, you might want to try your hand at it.

For a start, having a theme nudges you to do research and consider places you might otherwise have overlooked. (Where can I camp next to a waterfall?) It can be educational for kids. (We’re seeing how a river changes from source to sea.) And it’s also a great conversation starter. (I’m on a mission to see all the lighthouses along the east coast.)

There’s no right or wrong here. The best theme is one that speaks to you, matches your interests and suits your way of overlanding. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some themes to spark ideas:

Operation back roads

Highways are brilliant if you need to get somewhere quickly, but that’s also their downside. Everything passes you by at speed. If you want to see more of the countryside and visit little-known spots, map your route along back roads. That’s what T4A traveller Hannes Steyn did when he set himself the goal of travelling from Gauteng to Cape Town along gravel roads. It took him 10 days and he saw things he never would have seen otherwise, including a convoy of 1950s Mercedes Pontons in the Karoo!

You’d be surprised what you see when you travel the back roads. Picture by Hannes Steyn

A route with a view

When it comes to breathtaking panoramas, South Africa’s mountain passes more than deliver. As the road winds up the slopes, you get a bird’s eye view of the landscape. If you’ve been spending most of your days between four walls, you’ll love being able to gaze into the distance. That’s what prompted Tracks4Africa co-founder Johann Groenewald to drive the passes of the Cederberg and Tankwa Karoo after lockdown last year. Wherever you find yourself in the country, there’s likely to be a drive-worthy pass nearby and your T4A maps will help you plot a route. Be sure to pack padkos so you can stop off and soak up the vistas.

Admiring the sunset from the top of a mountain pass between Cederberg and Tankwa. Picture by Johann Groenewald

Also read: 5 passes to drive over the holidays

Notching up natural features

Perhaps you love nothing more than the cool calm of old growth forests. Or maybe you fall under the spell of waterfalls. For Romi Boom, the solitude of the desert is just the ticket. So she planned a 10-day road trip around the theme of desert landscapes. From the mountain desert of the Richtersveld to the red dunes of Sossusvlei, these remote tracks reward those who love the sight of seeming emptiness. Of course, you can plan your own route around whichever natural feature revs your engine. The many river mouths along the Wild Coast. The waterfalls of the Highveld. Campsites beside mountains streams, impressive baobabs to visit or a drive through narrow poorts…

A road trip through arid landscapes delivers for photographers. Picture by Romi Boom

A delicious detour or two

No matter where you’re heading this summer, you can dial up the fun factor by theming your road trip around things to eat or drink. It could be as simple as stopping off at every farm stall to see which has the best homemade pies. Or you could plot your route to seek out microbreweries and stock up for evenings around the campfire. How about a road trip to find the ultimate afval in the Karoo? It doesn’t really matter what you choose; it’s all about taking the turnoffs you wouldn’t necessarily have thought to take.

Grabbing a bite at a one-of-a-kind pitstop is a fun incentive for plotting a route.

Whether you plan your trip in detail or whether you set off and make it up as you go along, the important thing is to get out there.

Need help planning your route? Tracks4Africa has you covered. Our maps reflect the full network of tracks (tar, gravel and sand) as well as accurate travel times. Discover Points of Interest and get information on where to fill up with fuel. For route suggestions and tips on vehicle preparation, road conditions, border crossings and more, check out our guide books to Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Get 25% off when you buy Tracks4Africa products from the online shop until 5 December 2021.

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